How To Set Challenging Goals

A few months ago I bought a road bike. I’ve never had one before. One of those funny bikes with bendy handlebars that droop down for no apparent reason. I’ve been riding a mountain bike for years now. Nothing too strenuous – a small 8 mile loop on soft ground three times a week. Helps me clear my head…

But I felt I needed to do more so I bought the road bike on eBay. I set myself a big goal. 20 miles three times a week. Now the lycra-cladded amongst you will be snorting derisively. I know some of you are doing 120 miles in a single day. But I’m not there. For me, 20 miles seems like a lot. It’s a big goal. I set the goal. I planned my route and off I went.

It was terrible…I managed it but it was exhausting. It seemed to take all day. And what are those stupid handlebars about? I thought I was going to die. The sweat was pouring off me and my head was pounding. And I knew everyone was looking at me, as I huffed and puffed my way around the Cheshire countryside. After what seemed like an eternity I finished the route. Twenty miles – in the bag.

Three days later I overcame all my fears and I did it again. A bit easier this time but it still seemed like torture. Mentally, I was pleased to have done it, but I was hardly left with a huge desire to repeat the experience, and in my heart I knew that doing this three times a week was not going to happen. I just could not picture it. As a consequence I was not motivated to try because it is near impossible to feel motivated to do something when you think you’re going to fail.

I went back to the mountain bike. More my sort of thing.

Then the mountain bike had to have a repair and I was without it for over a week. Out came the road bike again. With huge trepidation. However, not being one to repeat past mistakes (usually) I started small – 10 miles. It took about forty minutes. It was fine. I did this three times a week for a fortnight. Despite the return of the repaired mountain bike I persevered with the road bike.

Then I upped it to 16 miles. Now I’m at 20 miles. I’ve just done four consecutive days at 20 miles per day and it was easy. Diary permitting, I can do 100 miles in a week. How long has it taken me to get to this giddy height? Nine weeks.

I will consolidate this over the next two weeks and then up it to 25 miles per outing. Then 30 miles. Then I buy the lycra. You have been warned.

Now this is a major achievement for me.

My progress has involved starting small and building up. We all know this is the way to do things but for me it’s been a stark reminder that to get anywhere we need to take the first step…

As Martin Luther King said, “you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

The key to goal achievement is motivation and the key to motivation is a genuine belief that we will succeed. No self-delusion. A genuine feeling that in all likelihood we will succeed.

So…how to set challenging goals? Answer – don’t set challenging goals. Set small, incremental goals. Maintain motivation and keep going. Take the first step…

, , ,

One Response to How To Set Challenging Goals

  1. Lily Newman March 1, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Hi Mark

    I loved this weeks pearl. It spoke to my heart (and my aching calves and thighs!) I too have joined the lycra clad brigade and today, head out for my first 20 miler (having started at 10 miles 4 weeks ago!) Good luck with the training, the fitness and the achievement of your goals. I’ll no doubt pass you in the Cheshire countryside one of these days.

Leave a Reply